Although the host kept trying to focus the discussion on whether or not video games spark mass shootings, Rep. Murphy did an excellent job explaining that the real issue that we need to address is our broken mental health system. Murphy worked as a psychologist before being elected to represent his Pittsburgh district, and he showed his mastery of the subject by explaining in a few moments how de-institutionalization and a lack of adequate community services have caused the criminalization of persons with mental disorders.
Rep. Murphy also took several shots at SAMSHA for squandering federal funds. He specifically cited SAMSHA’s support of persons and groups who encourage individuals with mental disorders to stop taking their medications. Clearly, Rep. Murphy has been speaking with Dr. E. Fuller Torrey who has been attacking SAMSHA’s use of federal taxdollars for years.
One of the lessons that I learned after my son became sick was how we are surrounded with evidence every day of our failing mental health system — but many Americans never see it. Those blinders fall away when mental illness touches your life.
This Saturday’s Metro section of The Washington Post printed a story that illustrates my point. Nicole Johnson attempted to drown her four children by driving them into the Anacostia River in the District of Columbia. This was after she tried — at least twice — to get someone to help her cope with her mental illness.
There was a time when I probably would have skipped over that story or not given it much thought. Not now.
It appears this ill woman will be sent to prison for a crime that she committed — even though she cried out for help and no one listened.
Why do we demand that persons with mental disorders save themselves and then condemn and imprison them when their illnesses prevent them from doing that?
The moderator on Face the Nation wanted to talk about video games. He would have been better served to have listened to Rep. Murphy and Mike Fitzpatrick. His audience would have been better informed too if the discussion had been about the plight of someone such as Nicole Johnson and her four children.
For the past several months, I have been speaking with one of Rep. Murphy’s top aides about mental health. Last week, Rep. Murphy and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) announced they will be holding a public forum March 5th on Capitol Hill under the auspices of the House subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
The forum is called: After Newtown: A National Conversation on Violence and Severe Mental Illness and I immediately agreed to participate — if asked. I also suggested the subcommittee contact Pat and Debbie Milam, whose son, Matt, committed suicide – despite his parents determined efforts to save him. (I told the Milam’s story in a blog entitled A Father Grieves: Noone Listened to the Parents.)
Hopefully, the public forum that Reps. Murphy and DeGette are hosting will shine a spotlight on the real issue that our nation needs to discuss.
For the sake of the Nicole Johnsons in our society, I hope so.